It is August. What a strange year we are experiencing. Massive temperatures and fires in Corfu and Sicily. My neighbours were in Sicily, supposedly on holiday but really shriveling in the heat and when the electricity went off and there was no air conditioning to add to all their other woes. Here we are with low temperatures and lots of rain. Hopefully there will not be too many disappointed children on wet holidays. My break isn’t until the end of the month so maybe it will have perked up a bit by then.
So, what am I thinking about?
Just recently I was with a group asking me about my career. Their main question was “what is the biggest mistake you have ever made?” that is easy to confess as I reflect many years later. I left a job in an organisation I had been with a long time, in a fit of pique. There were some strong logical reasons for leaving when I did, but the actual moment was determined by something silly. That happens to all of us. However, I did the job hunt properly and selected and was selected for, what seemed like the ideal role. There had been a reorganisation to meet a new business strategy and the thinking all hung together; I had been on three visits and liked what I saw of the business; I had met my fellow directors and although they were all new they seemed OK; and I had previously been a customer and liked what the firm did. So, it seemed a good move and it fitted in with my long-term career plan.
On my first morning my husband dropped me off (so I could drive my new company car home). I had my box, and I was raring to go. It was 8.30am. I like an early start – normally it would be 8am.
It was a small office – there were only ten of us based there – and none of them was there! Eventually I found a security man who let me in, and I made myself a cup of tea. And I waited; and I waited. Between 9 and 9.30am the P.A. team arrived. They were not sure what to say except that the CEO would probably be there about 10am. Now you can imagine how I am starting to feel! One of the girls thought it might be a good idea to put me in my office. It was a huge room. The boss’s PA had rung me whilst I was working my notice to talk about furniture. “They” had decided that as directors they should have rosewood furniture so they would send me a catalogue and I could select what I wanted within a budget. So, I did. When I saw it in this huge room it was anything but homely but maybe once I got some pictures up it would be OK?
By now I am on my third cup of tea and feeling an absolute nuisance. The gloss had already gone off my new job. At some time after 10am the boss arrived. He said “hello” and disappeared into his office for half an hour. Then it was my turn. He was friendly enough, but I could tell this bright and shiny new personnel director was the last thing on his mind. I expected to be told about my induction programme. What I was told was that induction programmes were my expertise; I would know what I wanted and so I had a free hand to organise my own. By 11am I was back in my office, and I knew I had made a mistake. I hated the office but more importantly I hated the approach to employees. If this new senior, expensive person was treated like this how would the people who did the work at the sharp end be treated?
Two weeks later, after I had completed my D.I.Y. induction programme, all my worst fears were confirmed. Direct workers were doing the job despite the management structure supposed to be supporting them.
Now in fact there were a series of mistakes here, all mine:
- Never do things in a fit of pique
- Ethics and values are what make the culture in a business, and it has to be right for you.
- Once you know you have made a mistake – move on to the right place. It took me two years to leave because I would not recognise that I had made a mistake and should move on. I thought I could make it right and I could not. I was a single voice. My assessment of the right personnel policies, procedures and practice for a successful business were untried and I did not have enough confidence in myself.
It took me a long time to learn these lessons. Far too long and it was a damaging two years.
Now why am I telling you this?
At the time it happened this was dreadful stuff, and I was miserable. Later it led me to the right path. I realised so many things about myself and my values and they have led me in a direction that I have loved.
This experience is what I use in my job as a mentor. I share my experience, my observations, and my mistakes so that my clients can avoid them for themselves.